Cylon War-era Centurion
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Cylon War-era Centurions (or simply Centurions) are the quintessential Cylon form encountered during the Cylon War. They are the next evolutionary step following the prototypical U-87 Cyber Combat Unit and are separate from that model. They are the predecessors to and creators of the humanoid Cylon form.
The Cylon War-era Centurions are the next evolutionary step - or modification - of existing Cylon models created by Graystone Industries of Caprica City (CAP: Pilot, "Apotheosis"). Resembling the prototypical U-87 Cyber Combat Unit chassis, Centurions are distinguished by their iconic chrome armor and sometimes likened to "walking chrome toasters" (TRS: Miniseries, "Razor").
Appearing in the years during which robots are used by humanity to make life easier on the Twelve Colonies, Centurions are closely related to the Cylons provided by Graystone Industries to the Caprican Ministry of Defense for use as simple soldiers (CAP: Pilot, "Unvanquished").
Not long after their introduction to Colonial society as cannon fodder and laborers, the Cylons develop their own culture and religion - worshiping the monotheistic God followed by humans aligned with the Soldiers of the One cult. Shortly thereafter, the Cylons inexplicably turn on their human masters, initiating the conflict known as the Cylon War (CAP: "Apotheosis"). Alongside other Cylon models - including the military and commercial types - the Centurions become a mainstay in the Cylons' war against humanity (TRS: "Razor", Blood and Chrome).
War with Humanity
The Cylon War is staged in various theaters including Caprica and Tauron and other outlying Colonial worlds. Centurions are present at these locations, fighting hand to hand against the Colonial Military and civilian fighters, as well as piloting Raiders and commanding basestars in battle against the Colonial Fleet in space (TRS: "Razor", Blood and Chrome).
Despite maintaining troops on Colonial worlds, the Cylons establish their own territory adjacent to Colonial space but frequently attack human targets (Blood and Chrome).
During their fight with humanity, the Centurions develop newer robotic forms and begin conducting experiments on human prisoners. Performing brutal operations on live victims, the Centurions strive to create fully biological humanoid Cylons. Their experiments result in the development of cybernetic animals and early humanoid models on the resort world Djerba (Blood and Chrome).
Elsewhere, the Centurions' efforts result in the creation of the Hybrids - an evolutionary "dead end" unable to survive without technology, the first of which is created shortly before the cessation of hostilities (TRS: "Razor").
Unable to create fully organic life, the Centurions agree to end the war in exchange for help from the Final Five – survivors of the Thirteenth Colony who possess resurrection technology. The Centurions sign the Cimtar Peace Accord with humanity and withdraw to their territory with The Five. Located somewhere beyond the designated Armistice Line, the Centurions and Final Five construct The Colony where they develop eight humanoid models, instilling in them monotheistic beliefs (TRS: "No Exit", "The Plan").
The Guardians are a group of Cylon-War era Centurions that pilot a single basestar, containing the first Cylon Hybrid, into deep space following the Armistice. Utilizing decades old Raiders and weaponry, the Guardians operate separately from the rest of the Cylon civilization, becoming something of a Cylon legend.
These Centurions guard the original Hybrid, still alive over 40 years after its creation. Seeking to further their evolution and continue the experiments begun during the first Cylon War, the Guardians capture a civilian science team from the surviving Fleet following the Fall of the Twelve Colonies. This triggers a battle between the Guardian baseship and the battlestar Pegasus, under the command of Lee Adama. During the battle, an assault team led by Major Kendra Shaw boards the basestar and engages several Centurions, before rescuing the science team and detonating a nuclear weapon that destroys the basestar and kills the Hybrid (TRS: "Razor").
Despite the development of the modern Centurion model by the humanoid Cylons, some of the original Centurions remain in operation, residing at the Cylon Colony. Serving alongside their more advanced counterparts, these Centurions are instrumental during the Battle of the Colony, when remaining Colonial forces launch an all out offensive to retrieve the half-Cylon, half-Human child Hera.
Armed with advanced weaponry, these Centurions engage in combat against rebel Cylon Centurions, dubbed "Red Stripes" (so-called because of the red stripe painted diagonally aross them to distinguish them from non-rebel Centurions) by the crew of the Galactica. These remaining Centurions also act as shock troops, boarding the Galactica at platoon strength. Ultimately, the Cylon boarding parties are repelled and the remaining Centurions are killed when the Colony itself is knocked into a black hole and destroyed (TRS: Miniseries, "Daybreak, Part II").
Retaining much of the appearance of the Caprican-built U-87 Cyber Combat and commercially available offshoots of that model, Cylon War-era Centurions are heavy, bipedal robots distinguished by a roving red eye. During the Cylon War, the Centurions are joined by a number of variations on the typical "toaster" model, as well as earlier Cylon models and more advanced Centurion forms (CAP: Pilot, "Apotheosis"; TRS: Miniseries, "Razor"; Blood and Chrome).
The quintessential Cylon War-era Centurions are the chrome-plated "toasters" later seen in the museum on Galactica and as costumes worn by children in the years following the war (TRS: Miniseries, "Razor", "Daybreak").
Carrying backpack-like power cells and approximately six feet six inches tall, these Centurions are protected by flexible rear armor which covers otherwise exposed internal mechanisms . Physically stronger than humans, these Centurions are designed with sufficient dexterity and capability of using weapons and tools. Centurions communicate vocally, but are also capable of receiving radio signals internally. Unlike their successors, these early Centurions do not possess built-in projectile weapons, but are armed with retractable blades, built into their forearms (TRS: "Razor").
Several variations of these models exist, ranging in design and function within the Cylon hierarchy. More compact models are seen piloting raiders, while more heavily armored models act as ground forces and warriors in the conflict with humanity. Gold-colored Centurions also exist, denoting command positions (TRS: "Razor").
The Colonial-designed Centurions utilize artificial intelligence and are designed as sentient beings. Like a minority of humans in the Twelve Colonies, the Centurions are practitioners of a religion centered around a "One True God" or what would come to be considered the "Cylon God" (TRS: "No Exit").
Saul Tigh, who possessed false memories of the First Cylon War, recalls the Cylon boarding of the Brenik, and the apparent hatred the Centurions have for humanity - despite the physical inability of the Cylons to show emotion on their faces (TRS: "Scattered" deleted scene). The Centurion's feelings for humanity is expressed by one of their creations - the cybernetic humanoid on Djerba telling Beka Kelly explicitly that they hate humanity (Blood and Chrome).
The reflection of animosity and intensity of the Centurions is apparent in the stylized Monclair painting in William Adama's quarters, depicting Cylon War-era Centurions battling Colonial forced utilizing relatively primitive bladed weapons (TRS: Miniseries, "Islanded In a Stream of Stars", et al).
The Cylon War-era Centurions are the root of modern Cylon society and their anger and hurt over their enslavement by the peoples of the Twelve Colonies lives on in their humanoid progeny. Despite the Centurions' desire to create organic bodies, certain humanoid Cylons - namely the Ones - express a desire to revert to their original mechanical forms. It is in the name of the Centurions that the humanoid Cylons and their own mechanical counterparts wage a second war on humanity, devastating the Colonies and forcing the few remaining humans into space (TRS: "No Exit").
During the Cylon War, the Centurions developed new robotic models as well as several cybernetic hybrids in their pursuit of organic humanoid forms (Blood and Chrome).
Connection to the Original Series
The readable text of the Armistice Officer's Cylon Specifications sheet shows:
A Cylon is a bipedal robot. They are self-aware, and usually quite logical. They are not especially fast, but they are quite strong. They are artificial in nature, and are larger than a human, around 6' 6" (2m), although this varies with their type. Cylon eyes glow red, and pulse back and forth. A Cylon is powered by internal powercells which allow it to function without outside aid for around nine to ten yahrens.
Behind the Scenes
The Centurion models for "Razor" were designed by Pierre Drolet, who had, among other things, previously designed the Viper Mark II, which is also a homage to the Original Series. Drolet said: "I always thought it was a great design. My goal was not to redesign it from scratch, but to work with the original and make subtle additions."
The armor of a Cylon Centurion from the Original Series can be seen in the museum aboard Galactica during the Miniseries. This is later retconned in "Daybreak, Part II" to reflect the redesigned Centurion from "Razor". Still, this redesigned museum version possesses some details carried over from the original design not present in the "living" Centurions.